Friday, December 27, 2013

Slán

We are going on a little adventure. A trip to 3 countries to visit friends and family, some of whom we have not seen for over 8 years. The blog will be taking a siesta and will be returning to normal sporadic posting when we return!

Slán

Hwyl Fawr

and just for now...

Good-bye!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We wish you a merry Christmas..

video

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blogging parcel!

There are so many lovely blogs that I love to read. My favourite ones seem to be the ones where normal women are raising their kids, living life and finding happiness and fun in the everyday. Those are the blogs that inspire me to live a happier life. To throw a little craft in here or there. To try a new recipe. To look at the normal busyness of our family week and see a moment that can be caught, in a photo or in words and turned into a story here on our own blog.

One of these blogs A Time To Create is written by an Australian woman called Catherine. I love her simplicity. She can leave periods of time go between blog posts because she is living real life and not trying to create an image of perfection that is unobtainable to other women bloggers. I love in particular that she makes such simple and yet beautiful cards. I love sending homemade cards to friends on their Birthdays and when Catherine posts a blog about recent cards she has made I find myself dropping everything and rummaging through my own craft drawers trying to re-create something similar for the next occasion I have to mark! 

I also love that Catherine has girls not dissimilar in ages to my teenagers. She seems to understand the reluctance of our girls to be blogged about constantly. And yet she has managed to complete a year of a one-a-week photos of each of her girls so she has 52 images of each to mark the year that has flown by. I wanted to do the same but didn't feel my girls would want me too. However after showing them the images Catherine has captured of her girls both mine are actually encouraging me to do the same with them in 2014 (with them getting pre-posting critique rights first!!!) 

When Catherine decided to do a giveaway  I left a comment and was so excited to have actually won. The parcel arrived a short time later and I waited until all the days chores were finished and I could sit down on the sofa and truly relish opening the beautifully wrapped parcel. 
Thank you Catherine. For being so real in a blog world we could so easily trick people into seeing only perfection. For your beautiful photos, your recipes you share, the card inspiration you give me and of course for this wonderful parcel of simplicty! 
I look forward to many more blog posts over the coming year. I wish you and your family a peaceful Christmas, time with loved ones and that 2014 will be kind to you all. 


Sunday, December 22, 2013

A "real" message

Our kids are growing up in a world that is fast moving. A world where messages can be sent with the click of a few buttons from anywhere in the world and the recipient can read them instantly. We often hear people saying that the art of letter writing is being lost and that kids these days don't have the manners and traditions that their parents and grandparents were raised with. 

Can I share with you the following Christmas card that Gareth came home from school with last week. Not just a card with Gareth's name and the senders name scribbled on in a rush. A card where the child had used white out to blank over the generic "Merry Christmas" message that had been printed on so he could write his own special individual message to each of the kids in his class. 
I sent a message to this boys mum telling her what a lovely card her son had sent. She said that he had decided to try to find one thing nice that he could say to each of his friends when he sat down to write them their personalized card. In this busy time where we can feel swept along by the commercialism and busyness of Christmas and wanting everything to be done yesterday this one boy and his special message has stopped us in our tracks and made us think again about the real meaning of Christmas. 

Happy Christmas to you too Jake. You are a credit to your Mum. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Aussie Christmas spirit!

Christmas in Australia is so, so different from the Christmases of my childhood in cold and frosty Dublin. Here you have to embrace the warmth and go with new traditions or feel miserable and bah-humbug for all that you miss. It looks like the owner of this car doesn't mind embracing the fun of a hot and sunny Christmas time! Just another snippet of what makes Australia a fun place to live!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When a mask is not what it appears to be...

A parcel arrived from Ireland. We were told to expect something funny in it for Byron. Something that had been found for a couple of Euro at a Christmas fundraiser by my mum and sister. As the parcel was opened I took a small video clip on my phone. We find it great to send little video clips in emails in addition to phone-calls as I know my parents enjoy being able to replay them over and over on their side of the world. It makes them feel more involved in what we are doing over here in Australia.

This is the video (after Byron had edited some "snow" falling around us!)....

video

We certainly had a laugh with Byron wearing his new Santa mask. Then we waited for an email response from Ireland. When it came it was full of hilarity and exclamation marks!!!!!!!! They talked about how they had laughed till they cried and were watching and re-watching it holding their sides with laughter.

It took a second look at the "mask" before it's odd shape puzzled me enough for me to think it was meant for something else. And then the penny dropped. Byron's mask was not meant for his face but his posterior.

It is a toilet seat cover...

I have re-watched the video with new eyes and now I can truly understand the tears of laughter that were shed in Ireland. At least it was brand new they reassured us! But poor Santa, I just can't bring myself to use the downstairs loo this Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Unconditional

There are some days when being a parent is a breeze. My kids are past the age of needing to be fed, dressed and strapped in to car seats. An average school day may involve reminding them how many minutes left until they need to hop in the car. Sometimes there's a last minute "Have you got your lunch?" "Don't forget to get the bus home today" etc. Generally they are organised kids and things run smoothly. Every week is busy before it begins with a full calendar of school, work, sports and music after school activities. Then you add in the extra things that crop up like dental appointments, car services etc and before you know a normal busy day becomes a logistical nightmare.

Let me tell you about a recent busy day... A day that began with school drop off at 8.30am and would't end until about 9pm due to a school P+F meeting. In between were a car service, exam supervising at the girls high school, getting Sian to and from Newcastle Uni for her fortnightly maths session from 4-6pm and trying to work out what to volunteer for at that nights Spring Fair fundraiser meeting that would be helpful but would not suck the last bit of energy remaining in my poor brain.

It started out at 7.45am with getting the kids to school. The girls went with Byron, no problems there. Gareth and I were running a few minutes late when the text came in from a-daughter-who-shall-not-be-named. It was about a big assignment she had finished and needed to be handed in the following day. Except it
didn't. It needed to be in by the end of this school day or she would automatically be deducted a significant percentage. Could I get it to her? Oh, it wasn't printed yet. And our home computer was out of ink.
Oh and it needed to be handed in in a document display folder. Which we didn't have... Could I buy one for her and she would tell me the order of the numerous pages so that I could fill all the pages of the display folder for her... before dropping it in to the school office...?

I felt the weight of a busy day pushing down on my shoulders. It felt like it wanted to crush me before it began. I mentally tried to work out how and where I could get the document printed? And what non-existent time slot I could use to actually deliver it? The headache was just a low throb throb in my left temple. Enough to tell me that it was there and looking forward to meeting me properly at some point later in the day. I was grumpy and frazzled. Not helped by the fact that it was a fast day and my stomach was growling like it hadn't been fed in months rather that the couple of hours since breakfast. A day where a snickers bar and a bag of salty chips would have been well justified in my pre-fasting mentality but were out of the question according to my strong resolve.

Lets fast forward through the crazy morning, the getting to the high school exam hall by the skin of my teeth, the driving through heavy traffic to an office I could print the document in, the searching through three stores to find a document display folder and finally the long drive back to the High School. That's when the headache stepped up a notch and the sky turned an ominous shade of black. The lightning crackled, the thunder boomed, the rain came down so fast that the windscreen wipers on full speed could barely give me minimal visibility.

And that's when you came on the radio Katy Perry. Singing your chirpy song. The song that the radio host said was all about love and in her opinion summed up the love between a mother and her daughter...

The song that seemed to speak just to me. As though I was the only person alive that was listening to it. I'd listened to it before but not really heard the lyrics. I heard them that day Katy.

"Come as you are to me
Don't need apology
Know that you are worthy
I'll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you, I love you"

Well technically Katy I'm driving through the storm but otherwise you are pretty accurate. This isn't one of the better days but yes, I love her. And that lump in my throat? It's now become a few tears trickling down my cheeks. Luckily in this crazy rain no-one can see into my car window and although cars wait left and right of me at the traffic lights I feel safe and protected by the blurry rain dashed windows and the boom of more thunder around me.

"Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally"

Fair point Katy, I'm sorry I sort of lost sight of that this morning.

I pulled in to the school just minutes before the end of day bell rang. Text my daughter to say "meet me at the office". I slid sheet after sheet of a really top quality assignment into the clear pages of the newly bought folder and saw her come around the corner, a sheepish grin on her face as her eyes scanned my face to read just how much trouble she was in. I must have smiled because she broke into a big grin and gave me the biggest squeeze hug that she had given me in a long time AND we were in a public place! Unheard of!

"Thanks mum" as she ran back to the staff room assignment clutched tight in her hand knowing she would get it submitted just in time. The receptionist looked up and smiled as I turned to the door to the car park. "She owes you a big thank-you"

I smiled back but in my head I said to Katy...  

"Don't need apology"


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Agapanthus war

I have a friend who shall remain nameless. Well every year Monica, oops, I just told you who she is. Never mind, she doesn't deserve anonymity. Well, every year Monica has a bit of an obsession about how many Agapanthus flowers she has growing in her garden. This year there were a few emails simply with a number in the text, how many flower buds she could count on her flourishing plants. Each time I got a message from her I ran out to count my Agapanthus flower heads and just managed to have a few more than her. The competition was heating up. Every single flower counted. I wasn't about to lose this war. 

I watched Byron outside last weekend mowing the grass. Not that I would ever tell him how to do his job BUT he was being a bit haphazard around my glorious flowers. So gung-ho that he hit one stalk and snapped the poor thing off. My blood boiled. Were they in league with one another? Was Monica paying him to reduce my chances of winning? Had I just witnessed sabotage? I felt the blood pounding in my ears as I ran out to the garden and proceeded to batter Byron with the damaged flower. 

Luckily the kids managed to pull me away but not until Byron was covered in purple flower heads. My friendship with Monica is on shaky ground. After the Judge saw this photo I'm still not allowed within 500 meters of her house. The magistrate said that if I can behave myself for the next 3 months he might relax the terms of the barring order. I think I can manage that. It's this time next year that worries me. When she starts counting the flower heads budding on her beautiful plants again...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Apple Cider Vinegar

I have seen a lot of positive things online about the use of apple cider vinegar. More specifically cloudy, unfiltered vinegar that still has the "mother" enzyme in it. I've read amazing claims that it helps to melt fat and boost metabolism, particularly if it is taken with a spoon of honey.

When I saw the vinegar on the shelf of my local supermarket I thought I'd give it a go. It didn't sound like it could do any harm. In an ideal world I should be taking a teaspoon each of the vinegar and the honey in a glass of water and drinking it three times a day about a half hour before meals.
Some days I remember, others I'm out and about and forget.

I certainly haven't had any negative side effects. As you probably know I've been doing intermittent fasting since January of this year and lost about 8kgs in the first few months and then maintained it. When the weight first came off people noticed and commented but in recent months I have grown used to my new shape and so had the people around me. So when my brother came to visit last month I was really chuffed to have them comment again on the fact that I was looking well. They asked what I had been doing other than the fasting. When I thought about it there have been two things.

Firstly that I got carried away with spending the last of my birthday money on a weighted hula hoop (a subject deserving of it's very own blog post!) and secondly the vinegar and honey.

In the last month I had seen my weight, that had been at a plateau for about six months, drop by an extra 1-2kgs. Do I credit the hula hooping? Do I credit the vinegar? Who knows? But at only a few dollars for a bottle that will make up 50 drinks that taste relatively pleasant and has had no negative side effects then why not continue?

Have you ever heard of this strange concoction and if so have you used it? I'd love to hear from anyone else who has given it a go. Any tips or advice you can give me?

And lastly, has anyone else gone mad hula hooping? Or am I just a complete loony?!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Typical teenager?

What is a typical teenager? 
If you watch movies you'd be forgiven for thinking that all teenagers eat pizza, drink commercial branded soft drinks and are constantly "plugged in" to their iPods.
That is so judgmental...
Teenagers are individuals...
They are not all made from one mold...
They don't all fit a stereotypical ideal...
...er, Rhiannon...? Rhiannon....? Rhiannon...!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Advent begins.

I love Advent. As a Catholic Easter and Christmas are our two most special times in our church calendar. As a child nothing filled my tummy with the fluttery feeling of butterflies as much as the four weeks before Christmas. One by one the candles were lit on the Advent wreath in church. With every candle another week had passed and the time was creeping closer and closer to that magic of Christmas day. 

I don't make it to Mass every week. I know that I can be a good Christian in how I live each and every day and not just by spending one hour a week under the churches roof. Even so I make every effort I can to try to get to each of the four Advent masses. 

When I was allocated to do Children's Liturgy this weekend I was delighted. When I got to church I was asked if I would like to be the parishioner who went up to light the first Advent candle in the parish wreath. The butterflies kicked in and I was like a child trying to keep my smile from exploding from my face. After lighting the main wreath I got to bring the kids across to the parish hall where we made our handprints and cut them out to make our very own children's wreath. 

I came home on cloud nine. 

Four weeks to go...

The butterflies are barely being kept under control. 

What does Advent mean to you? 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The axe is on hold...

Betty and Wilma have not been earning their keep. 

We've had about 8 weeks of NO EGGS! 

There was talk of them becoming Christmas dinner but then yesterday we found two perfect eggs in the egg box. This morning I checked the egg box again and found this beautiful still warm egg. 














Thank you Betty, or was it Wilma? The axe has been put away for another day...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sian's formal.

Sian is finishing Year 10 this year. It is tradition to have a Formal evening where they dress up and have one last evening together as a group before some move on to apprenticeships and trades and some continue on to Year 11 and 12. 

Sian spent the day with her friend Holly and they enjoyed pampering and doing hair and make-up together. They looked so beautiful as they went out into Newcastle. It blew a gale as they posed for photos under the shelter of the "Tin Sheds" in Newcastle before heading on to their meal and dancing.
We went to dinner with friends and ate pizza and chips in the cozy shelter of Merewether surf house as the rain pounded the windows.

It felt strange waiting up at home for Sian and Holly to come back in the door. They had big smiles on their faces and shoes in hand to relieve aching feet.

I truly have felt my emotions go around and around this last couple of weeks as I see Sian making subject choices based on Uni plans for 2016. She is growing up so very fast. No longer a child to be nurtured and molded but a young adult to be allowed to grow and become her own person. If the glimpse she gave us this weekend is what she is becoming then I think we are very lucky parents.
Sian, 
We love you so much. 
You have made us so proud and given us a lump in our throats as we see the beautiful a young woman you are becoming.
Always stay true to yourself our gorgeous girl. 
xo


Monday, November 25, 2013

11

To our Wonderful Gareth

When I married your Dad and we talked about having children he said he thought 2 would be great. I wanted 3 so I told him I wanted 4 and we could compromise on 3!

First we had Sian and then two years later Rhiannon. They were a bit of a handful! When I realised I was going to have a third baby sooner than planned I was a bit overwhelmed. I was scared I wouldn't be able to cope with so many little children. We all know the story about how that baby didn't make it to being a part of our living family. After so much sadness your Dad said he didn't want to risk trying for another baby. He didn't want to see me hurt if things went wrong again but I yearned for one more.

On the night that baby should have joined our family I found myself kneeling in a small church in my hometown. Tears ran down my face as I prayed and begged God to let us have another baby. To let it work out safe and healthy. To let me have the third child I wanted so badly my heart physically ached for it. I made promises I swore I would keep. As I kneeled there crying I didn't know that you were already snug deep within me. Just waiting for another few weeks to go by before I would start to realise that I was pregnant. My prayers had been answered before I had even put them into words.

When you  came into the world 11 years ago you were the most perfect, HUGE baby boy! We were complete. I had my three beautiful children and we had the added excitement of a boy to help the balance in favour of your poor Dad.

Our family is so lucky to have you in it. You are such a wonderful person. You have such an enquiring mind, always seeking answers, answers I don't always know so I tell you "Best go ask your Dad..." You are funny and sensitive. You feel other peoples emotions as though they are your own. You are quick to apologise and to look out for others. You are a total computer genius! I know you get that from your Dad. You will go far in life with those brain cells and be a good person too. Your friends are fortunate to know you and I know that as you grow and mature that you will make many people happy simply by being a part of their lives.

Gareth Patrick Baynham, We love you so much. Our big handsome 11 year old!

Happy Birthday

You are loved so very much,

Mum xo




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dr Who, 50th Anniversary.

*Disclaimer* The following blog post contains geeks and geeky behavior. You have been warned!

We are big Dr Who fans in our house. HUGE! 

This weekend marks the 50th Anniversary of Dr Who and we were spoiled for choice with numerous replays on TV and of course the 50th anniversary special. We recorded it and waited for all 5 of us to be home together so we could have a special dinner in front of the TV. There were bow-ties, fez hats, TARDIS mugs and of course....fish fingers and custard!!! Fellow geeks will understand why the odd choice of food. Non-geeks, if you are still reading this you may be a closet geek after all!

Rhiannon is getting very clever with her photography and particularly with grouping photos together into collages. I loved the one she posted on Instagram this evening so I asked her could I steal it to put here. 

Did you watch any of this weekends shows? Reluctantly or in full geek splendor?!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Food from home!

There's something so comforting about the food we grew up eating. Often when you ask someone living far from their roots what they miss about home you will hear the expected "family, friends...FOOD!"

When visitors are arriving from your homeland space must be made in the suitcase for the familiar longed for packets of biscuits, tea bags, relishes and sauces. In this ever shrinking world we see some brands on the shelves that seem international. I grew up eating Kellogg's cornflakes in Dublin, I could buy them in England and now here in Australia they continue to make it onto the shopping list. But Tayto crisps... I haven't had them in years!

I can't begin to tell you the wave of nostalgia that swept over me when this card arrived in the post recently...


Thank you so much Katherine for thinking of me when you saw it on your girls weekend. I had fun looking through all the items, some still used in our house and some I haven't seen in years. The kids recognized some but others needed stories to explain them. For example I don't soak marrowfat peas the night before a roast dinner here in Australia.  When I explained what they were the kids weren't too upset at the lack of mushy, squishy green peas on the side of their weekly Sunday dinner!

Do you recognize any of the brands in the card above? Do you still live in the country you were born in? If not, what do you miss the most?!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Earl Grey cookies

I saw the last 5 minutes of a cookery show on tv as I started ironing the other day. They were showing you how to make Earl Grey Cookies. Now I love Earl Grey tea and so I just had to try these out. I searched on-line and there a few recipes out there that are all fairly similar. I tried the one below but have since found a Martha Stewart one that uses some finely grated orange zest. I plan on trying that variation next time for sure! 

What I liked about this recipe was that it gets made in the food processor which minimizes washing up. I also liked that you put it in the fridge to harden the dough and can then cut off disks to bake in just a few minutes. You can also cut off disks to eat raw when no-one is at home to tell you off! 

The day I made my first batch I spent a few extra minutes making a pot of real Earl Grey tea with the tea leaves I had bought for the recipe. Instead of drinking it while multi-tasking and rushing around I stopped and poured into my lovely birthday cup and saucer from my brother Joe and actually went up and sat down on the balcony for 10 minutes. It was lovely! 

I can admit to you all here that my main motivation for taking the time to drink it slowly and overlooking the lake was the thought that I could take a photo and use it as a future blog post. I've been pretty slack in my blogging recently as normal life has been a bit busy. Here at last I have made the time to post this photo and share the recipe with you. I hope you can find the time to have a few minutes to do something nice for yourself today too!



Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

Directions
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour.
Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. 
Pulse together just until a dough is formed. 
Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter.
Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/ 180 degrees C

Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. 
Place on baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). 
Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. 
Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fire!

On a recent weekend afternoon I came home from work to find Byron wanting to show me a video he took of a fire in our laundry room. 

A FIRE?! 

He didn't seem overly bothered and wouldn't explain any further, just asked me to watch the video on his phone...

...I'll let you see for yourself!

video

Thursday, October 31, 2013

First harvest.

For a few months now we have successfully kept the chickens away from the veggie patch. The little seedlings have flourished and we have seen the first of the sugar snap peas emerge. It is not really a big enough harvest to invite everyone around for tea but enough to add a little crunch to our salads! 
Fingers crossed we can keep the chooks away a while longer and maybe see some more of our veggies make it to the dinner table!



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Eat, Fast and Live Longer: The 5:2 diet, Is it still working?

I haven't written anything here about the 5:2 diet in a long while. I found that once I passed the 14 week mark there was nothing really new to tell you. I had documented the first weeks and months as I embarked on this very new way of life and enjoyed sharing the ups and downs of losing that magical 8 kilos.

With any fitness/diet/health resolution in my past there has been a familiar pattern. A period of dissatisfaction with my current weight/activity levels, a sincere desire to make positive change followed by a couple of months of genuine change which ever so slowly dwindles as my focus returns to trying to balance the home/work/family needs etc. I'm not a yo-yo dieter but I am a bit on/off with how much I prioritise exercise and healthy practises into my day to day life. If past experience was anything to go by I should have well and truly been sidetracked by now and quite possibly a couple of those kilos would have crept back on.

But they HAVEN'T ! This is now week 40 of following the 5:2 diet. Byron and myself have lost our extra weight, regained our healthy BMI and maintained our weights while eating and drinking normally 5 days a week. We have developed new habits that would now be hard to break. Each Sunday evening we look at the calendar for the coming week and see what is happening on the different days. We discount any days that have a birthday celebration, a night out with friends or any work commitments that will make fasting hard and we look at what days are left. We choose our two fast days and stick to them. We have some favourite meals like Vietnamese style basa fish with steamed veggies, Lentil tikka masala, Asian steak salad and Cottage pie with celeriac and leek mash. With only two fast days each week it is relatively easy to cycle these meals around to give variety and I often make/prepare/freeze about 8 portions of each meal at a time which makes it so easy to defrost and cook on future fast days.

My big goal back in January was to get back to my healthy BMI in time to celebrate turning 40 in August of this year. I bought myself a pair of red swimmers off the sale rack in February that I could barely squeeze into. The aim was to fit into them on my Birthday. I am so happy to say that I did. Sian took a photo of me on the beach that matched the dream in my head as I started the 5:2 diet in January. I have procrastinated about making it public as I am far more comfortable being the one holding the photo than the one posing in front of it. But I feel I'm ready to share it in the hope that anyone who identifies with my past behaviour of gradually reverting to old habits can see how very life changing this way of eating can be.

You may be facing a much larger weight loss journey than me or just want to reap the long term health benefits of protection against cancer, dementia or stroke. Whatever your path it will never be the exact same as mine. But it is worth starting. Because 9 months from now you might be looking back at a new you in the mirror, a healthier version of yourself reflected in a window as you walk past or in a photo taken by a loved one. And you will feel so good that you are taking steps to be the healthiest version of yourself that you can be.

Thank you everyone who has encouraged and supported me over the last 9 months. If I can support you in any way please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message. If you are a Facebook user I can really recommend the Facebook 5:2 diet group page. They give amazing support and encouragement and there is always someone who will have the answer to a question you may have or someone who is going through similar experiences.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bush Fires

This week has seen some horrendous bushfires in New South Wales. So far over 200 homes have been burnt down and I'm sure that number will continue to rise as this week continues. Our suburb has not been under threat of burning so far but we have experienced a huge amount of smoke from fires burning about 10 km away from us. I saw the aerial photo below on the local news website and I have edited it to show where we are living in relation to one of the major fires currently burning. 

As you can see we have the safety of a large expanse of water between us and the fire so we feel relatively safe as long as the wind doesn't carry the fires around the west side of the lake. The scariest moment for our family was probably about 6pm on Thursday as we smelt the smoke in the air and watched the thick grey plumes blow across the lake and over and around our home. We were tuned in to constant updates on the local radio station and had everything tidy and ready for power cuts so that we wouldn't be tripping over shoes in the dark if we did need to evacuate. Luckily for us that didn't eventuate.

When I woke up at 6am on Friday morning the smoke was still in the air and there was a thin layer of fine ash settled on my car. As I drove to work I had to detour past the Toronto Fire Station to collect a colleague. I stopped to take a photo of the fire station in the deep orange sunrise. All the colours were magnified and beautiful due to the smoke in the air but it was an eerie and slightly scary beauty. 
As I worked in the hospital that morning the wind picked up again and we heard sirens wailing in the distance and had to shut all the windows and doors as yet more smoke rolled in over the hospital. As I walked up and down the corridors working I could smell the smoke inside the building and felt anxious about the elderly patients I was caring for and also for my son who's school was between the hospital and the fires and was undoubtedly also surrounded by smoke. All I could do was check my phone constantly for updates on the fires and reassure myself that the smoke outside was still from the out of control fire across the lake and not a new one nearer.

Thank you to all the friends who have sent messages from overseas checking how we are. We truly feel safe at this point in time and just send our prayers in the direction of those families who have lost homes over the last few days. We also want to thank from the bottom of our hearts all the wonderful people helping to keep us safe. Particularly our local Fire Station in Toronto. It takes times like this for us to realise how lucky we are to have such brave people keeping us all from harm.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Little Miss A turns 2!

Are you a recent reader of this blog? Or are you an old timer? 
Do you remember what happened two years ago? 
Yes, the famous "The baby I (nearly) delivered!" story...

Well two years on and that friendship is sealed for life and I have become the very happy shared God-mother of  the adorable little Miss A. She is the most gorgeous kid you could ever hope to know. She is fiery and clever and cute as a button. With big eyes and curly golden hair and a smile that melts your heart. And she is 2! No more baby, hello little personality. 

This year on her actual birthday she was visiting grandparents and cousins. So on the weekend of their return her parents offered to call in so I could have my birthday hug. We decided to make a little afternoon tea with mini cup-cakes and a giant cup-cake birthday cake (best $5 cake tin I've ever bought!) Throw in a few pink balloons and some tissue paper wrapped up gifts and voila, an impromptu party! 

Little Miss A got shy as we sung Happy Birthday to her so I got the longest tightest squeezy hug from her as she hid her head in my neck until the singing stopped. 


The giant cup-cake was a huge success. And what Birthday table would be complete without a little ambulance to remind us of the day that brought us all together. 

Dear Little Miss A,
I am so thankful for the day I gave your mum my number "just in case" 
I'm glad your Dad rang me that night for help.
I'm grateful (and a teeny bit jealous) you came into this world under the safety of the paramedics who delivered you only down the road.
I'm so glad I get to see you each Monday in the school car park for a quick cuddle.
I'm so lucky I have been able to watch you grow over these last 2 years into a beautiful little girl.
I am so happy that I will get to be a part of your life over the coming years as you grow up.
I love you more than all the cup-cakes in the world!
G xo


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Goodbye to the in-laws...

At the end of a very successful visit from Byrons parents we had a slap up goodbye BBQ. We made sure that all Myan and Den's favourite foods were on the menu, a huge tin of Anne's amazing potato bake, a mountain of frenched lamb cutlets and a big salad. And wine, lots of wine! 

As we brought the food to the table we jokingly put the tray of cooked meat where Myan's dinner plate should have been. Her face was priceless as she posed for a photo to send to the relatives in Wales but the funniest photo was the out-take when she turned to Den and said something and then laughed and laughed as he sat patiently waiting for his plate to be filled! 
It's always good to end a visit on a high and I think we did just that. We packed a lot of laughter into three weeks. The next day Byron drove them to Sydney to catch their plane home. 41 hours door to door. A long journey and not an easy one to do as the years catch up with us all. At each goodbye we can't help but be aware of the fragility of health and the uncertainty of whether there will be another journey in the future. This time however we have already booked and paid for five tickets to the UK and Ireland this coming January so the goodbyes were less emotional with the knowledge that it was only a matter of months before we will all be together again. 

Next time it will be a different country, a different table and probably different food but undoubtedly the same roars of laughter as we sit and eat together. 

Safe Home Myan and Den. It was a great visit!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mad mother...

When the kids were younger I used to lay their uniforms on their bedroom floors ready for them to put on the following morning. It helped the day get off to a smooth start and alerted me to any essential parts of the uniform that were missing and needed washing or ironing. They are big enough now that they are capable of dressing without being babied. Every now and again I still like to have a little bit of fun. This is a small glimpse of the " mad mother" behaviour my poor kids have to put up with....!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A new habit

As the weather here in Australia gets warmer and Spring wakes us all up from our Winter hibernation it is a chance to get out and about and shake the cobwebs from our heads. Rhiannon and myself have been for a couple of great walks together. We know that when Summer takes hold the heat will make long walks harder in the middle of the day but this time of year is perfect. It is warm and pleasant and you don't feel like you are sizzling under the full strength of the harsh Aussie sun.

At the end of a lovely walking track we came across a small cottage with a rambling garden full of simple flowers. Daisies, nasturtiums and many more we didn't know the names of. The seeds from these flowers had blown over the garden boundaries and spread out into the surrounding bushland. It was like someone had accidentally spilt a pallet of bright colours and they had splashed accidentally in places they didn't normally belong.

We stopped a while and made daisy chains. Rhiannon was a natural. I gave up as stem after stem split under my stubbie fingers but Rhiannon had a daisy crown in no time at all! We came home rejuvinated. Not just from the fresh air but from the time together, a precious thing in our normally busy lives.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Mother-in-law from hell!

Why is it that so many mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships are rocky? I can only imagine that there might be an element of tug-of-war between the two biggest female loves in his life. The mother, the woman who has loved him from infancy to adulthood and knows every detail of his past as he grew into the man he is today. And then the woman who has fallen in love with the adult man and feels she knows the "real" him inside out, shares his dreams and fears, has seen his adult soul in a way that no-one else will have been let in. 

In this way I know that Byron's mother knows all the details of his childhood. What he was like as he grew up. The funny characteristics he had through all the stages of his babyhood, toddler tantrums, teenage angst until he went away to Uni. What he loved to laugh at, what he loved to eat, his favourite home cooked dinners and treats. 

Equally I think I know the current Mr B pretty well. After 17 years of marriage I'd like to think I know what makes him laugh now, what way he likes his coffee, what foods he enjoys. Many of these things will be the same and some will have changed over the years. Essentially though we both love the same man. We both know that he holds a huge place in our hearts and we know that we have a place in his too. There is room for both. If only every bride could know that on her wedding day. If only she could view her Mother-in-law not as competition but as a team mate. 

My own Mother told me a story as I counted down the days to my wedding. She talked about how her Mother-in-law used to come to Sunday dinner and would stand outside the front window and tap on the glass and rattle a box of smarties at myself and my brother. We were very young, pre-school age and obviously after a few smarties we didn't want to eat our veggies. It bugged my mum at the time but little did any of us know that my Granny wasn't going to be around for very much longer. In the scheme of the things my wise mother told me "Did it really matter?" 

And so I find myself sharing my house, my kitchen with my Mother-in-law. I am quite stubbornly independent. I don't share my kitchen well. Even though I am regularly offered help I just as regularly turn it down. But I know that I have a wonderful opportunity to stand back sometimes and let Byron's mother have my space, wear my apron and let her make treats for Byron and the kids that don't require weighing scales, that require wisdom and patience, the feel of a hand and the judgement of an eye. I have been taught by my own wise Mum that life is fragile and we need to appreciate the time we have with each other. 

And so I share with you a photo of the Mother-in-law from hell. My husbands Mother Myan. Busy in my kitchen preparing Welsh treats for all to scoff later. Are you shocked with the name I give her? Have you looked closely at her head? Yes, there, can you see it now? The little diamante horns? Let me present to you the woman who made Byron the character that he is today. The woman who can wear her teenage grand-daughters silly headband and can have my kitchen filled with the sound of howls of laughter. The woman who pulled her silliest face and happily let me take a photo. The lady who said "Put it anywhere love, Facebook, Blog, Inter-web, I don't care!"

This is the woman that I can view as competition for the rest of my marriage. Or the woman I can take my hat off to and say Thank You. 

Thank You for making and moulding the man I love today. 

I will never be able to make Welsh Cakes like you, or bread pudding with whiskey. I will never be able to pull off quite such a wicked look as you but I promise you this. I will love him. As much as you loved him all those years you raised him. As much as you love him still. I will love him that much and more. 

Forever. 

I promise. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Catch up!

It's been a while since I managed to write here. Life has been a bit hectic for the last two weeks. It has been school holidays and we have had overseas visitors. Byron's parents from Wales landed on the last day of school term. There have been so many "bloggable" moments and I shall try to catch up this weekend by back-dating a few stories and photos to fill in the blanks!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Five Spice!

We try to sit down each evening with the kids and have a gadget free hour where we leave all ipods, iphones etc in their chargers in another room. We curl up on the sofa and try to find something on the tv that we can all watch as a family. Usually it is something like Man V's Wild, Mythbusters or a David Attenborough documentary. As the kids get older they are wanting to sit in on other shows we watch that are a bit more borderline suitable. 

Live at the Apollo is a comedy that has different comedians each week. It is a bit hit and miss. Sometimes the comedians are very crude and as the topics progress we find ourselves having coughing fits and quickly changing channels to something more suitable. One exception was a funny segment about all the different spices and herbs in a cupboard that are talking to one another about how little they have been used. Other than one use of the word "B*****d" it is quite funny and has had the kids and Byron randomly saying "I'm five spice" in falsetto and doubling over laughing! You can hopefully see it here...
As I browsed through the spice aisle looking for some cinnamon the other day look what caught my eye! Five Spice!!! I could help myself. I had to take a selfie to text message to the kids before I bought it. Now the only question is... How long will it sit in the cupboard waiting to be used!

Friday, September 27, 2013

New BBQ

Our current BBQ is 8 years old. It still works (barely) and is propped up on a brick where a leg fell off and is certainly showing its age. I think we should use it till it dies but Byron keeps wandering over to the BBQ section in every DIY shop we go into "just to have a look"  I'm sure you can just imagine his face when he saw this beauty recently!


Birthday hint? Fathers day? Christmas? Unless he wants ten years of gifts rolled into one then I think this BBQ will just have to stay in his dreams! 

Sorry Mr B!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ollie's place!

In the last year there has been a new addition to the Baynham family. Little baby Oliver arrived in April to make Byron's nephew Kerry and his new wife Sarah a proper little family! In all the photos we see of him on Facebook he looks like the cutest little boy ever and we can't wait to see him when we go to Wales next year. Imagine our excitement when we came across this shop in a local shopping center... Ollie's Place!
It would be easy to spend a small fortune in there with all the cute clothes with Ollie's name stitched into them. We bought him his birth present there and made sure to include the cute plastic bag in the parcel for Sarah to use again. Now that Byron's parents are here we thought we should bring them in to have a browse. Rhiannon found a cute vest for him that we will send home in Myan and Den's suitcase...
If you are reading this Ollie, you come from an amazing gene pool. We can't wait to see you in January to cover you in hugs and kisses. Has anything in the photos caught your eye? Any advance requests? What about the soft Koala on the shelf at the back? One of everything in your size? Shall we put the application in to remortgage the house now? 

See you soon handsome. xo

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The in-laws have landed!

I can't believe it has been two years since Byron's parents visited us last. The time has gone so quickly. It feels very deja-vu having them here on almost the exact same dates two years later. I expect they see big changes in the kids. With both girls now in High School they really are growing into their own individuals and Gareth seems a lot less childish now that he is nearing the end of Primary school.

It is always a bit gut-wrenching waiting to see one another after so much time has gone by. What will they look like? Will they have aged? Will they still be as robust as the last visit or will frailty have started to creep in? I am very glad to say that as they arrived they still looked well and although tired Byrons Mum certainly had a wicked twinkle in her eye. No change there it seems!

It took a couple of days to adjust to the new time zones and they are looking remarkably comfortable having mid afternoon naps in our two red armchairs. A bit too comfortable if you ask me. I'm beginning to worry that they may not want to return home at the end of their three week visit!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Organisation V's Chaos

As we approach the end of another school term we all long for a change of pace, a change in routine. Over the last few years of combining raising kids/running the house/working as a nurse I have had to learn to be organised. This is not a quality that comes naturally to me as many of my friends will know, particularly friends who knew me in my teens and early twenties. 

For example as an 18 year old nursing student I shared a room in a rental house with Fiona. I'm going off on a tangent here... There was a weekend that I was planning to spend at home in my parents house. As I glanced around my shared room in the rental house I took in the pristine half that Fiona's bed was positioned and the chaos around my bed. Not having the time or inclination to do a proper tidy I scooped every one of my belongings off the floor and threw them onto my unmade bed. The finishing touch was a shake of my duvet which I then placed on top of the bed hiding all the mess beneath. I may then have had a wicked twinkle in my eye as I tucked things in here and there and made the shape of my belongings look like a sleeping person. The addition of a black soft toy to the pillow area to look like hair was the icing on the cake. Fiona came home from work late in the evening and walked into the dark supposedly empty bedroom... Surprisingly she still talks to me...!

Back to now. See how far I've come.... One of my stress saving organisational ideas I have discovered over this term is money. Lots of small change to be precise. This term I have eliminated the dreaded panic on Thursday night when the kids need their various coins for Friday sports and for their lunches that they get from the canteen as an end of week treat. Each Monday when I do the big supermarket shop I get out some cash and then go to the customer service lady and she gives me all the small notes and coins I need for the coming weeks activities, piano lesson, school excursions, sports, canteen etc. I lay it all out and then scoop it into a ziplock bag that I hide in the kitchen where no-one will raid it and at least it is one less thing to cause stress. I am looking forward to school holidays and taking a break from needing to be so organised. 

That wicked twinkle is making my eye twitch again... Roll on holidays!!!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

To plant a garden...


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Getting older.

I just have to share this photo with you. My little boy is getting older and more and more grown up each day. I know that when my kids were younger they seemed to change every week. Learning new words, crawling, walking, running. Now the changes are more subtle and creep up on me until, boom!, I see a pose or a moment and I think "You are growing too fast" "Slow down!" 
This photo is definitely one of them!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Close to our hearts.

When we emigrated to Australia 8 years ago the girls were given a little locket each from their Granny and Grandad Joe in Ireland as a "Goodbye" gift. As a seven year old girl Sian was likely to lose or break such a delicate gift and so it was saved for special occasions.

This weekend we were heading down to Sydney to my brothers house to celebrate my nephew's birthday. It was a fun family occasion and like all of our special days here in Australia the one thing missing was Granny and Grandad and Auntie Carrie in Ireland. What I didn't realise until Sian showed me was that she had worn her special locket that day. Symbolically it made us feel like they were with us.

Modern technology is so amazing as we used our phones to take photos and little movie clips that we were able to email to Ireland as we were driving home on the Freeway. It was so nice to know that as our day was ending and theirs was just beginning they were waking up to messages of love flying through cyberspace before we had even set foot back inside our own house. An old fashioned gift and modern technology blended together to keep us all close. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Chicken selfie!

Rhiannon has become very clever at taking and editing photos on her ipod. Every so often she will show me one and I will say "I want a copy of that!" Here is one that she took last week with Betty and Wilma. It makes me laugh. I just love it! 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Father's Day 2013

Fathers Day this year started out with lots of fun gifts for Byron (mainly of the edible and drinkable variety) 
As always a giant Toblerone that we expect to have shared out with us!
 
Then it was off for a walk through Newcastle where we found this bizarre gold and rich red draped sofa in the middle of the path going through the foreshore?! It didn't seem to be connected to any particular hotel or restaurant? I'm sure we weren't the only people to use it  for an impromptu photo shoot!

It's so nice that we can still celebrate Fathers Day as a family. As the girls grow older and their own lives get busier I hope that they always have the time to stop and celebrate Fathers Day with the man that has loved and protected them from the day they were born. 

And on that same note I too wish my lovely Dad a happy Bonus Fathers Day over in Ireland. He gets to be spoiled twice. Once in June when Fathers Day is celebrated all over Ireland and again in September when Australia celebrate their Fathers Day. Here is a funny photo of my Dad and me taking a "selfie" back in 2008. 
I think it may have been one of Dads first times being made to pose for a selfie and I can read in his face "What on earth is she up to now?" but I love that he put on his smile and let me mess away with the camera.
Happy Fathers Day Dad. You will always be loved.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

My "extra" baby

Before Gareth started school we loved going to the local playgroup held in the grounds of the school and church. A quiet spot where the kids could play and explore under the shade of gum trees while the mums had a cup of tea and chatted together, building friendships and sharing the trials and tribulations of their previous week. When Gareth started Kindy I missed this group. There were jokes about popping in to say some day with a baby doll wrapped in a blanket to say hello. Somehow life got busy and it never happened. 

Fast forward almost 6 years and my week has a different pattern. Working set shifts at the local hospital means my Fridays consist of caring for patients and playgroup is a fading memory, until a change in my work roster found me dropping Gareth to school one recent Friday morning and at a bit of a loss as to what I was going to do with my day. There was always the long list of boring house chores to go home to. I stopped in the car park with the warm sun on my back and chatted to mums with younger kids and watched them wave goodbye to each other with calls of  "see you at Playgroup" My friend Francesca joked that I should come too. I laughed at the familiar joke of  "Just bring a doll" and went home.

The washing got pegged on the line, breakfast dishes were cleared, the floors swept. I stood in the kitchen feeling restless and then thought "I'm going!" I grabbed a doll from the top of a wardrobe where it lay in a tangle of toys. This doll had been mine as a young girl. A gift from Santa when I was about 8 or 9. The birth certificate in the box had said her name was Mineenee. She was wearing an old babygrow of Sians. I felt a little silly walking down to the clearing where the Playgroup was in full swing. It didn't take long to find Francesca and she laughed as she saw me arrive with my doll under my arm. I had a fun morning, sitting in the sun, drinking a cup of tea and joining in the chatting. I got to play with my gorgeous Goddaughter. We played airplanes where I span around and around holding tight to her hands as her feet left the ground and she shrieked  "Again, again, AGAIN!" It was magic!

My doll was quickly adopted by Francesca's other lovely daughter who asked if she could borrow her for a few nights. With her mum's permission we agreed terms for the sleepover and later that day I got a photo of her babysitting the doll carefully. The next week at morning drop off Mineenee was returned to me on the promise that someday in the future she could have another sleepover at her new friends house! 

As I sat next to the fireplace on that chilly Christmas morning in my Dublin home and unwrapped that doll all those years ago I wonder if Santa could ever have known that 30 something years later on the other side of the world the doll would be bringing joy to another little girl sitting under the dappled shade of the eucalyptus trees...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Red back in my watering can!

I love living here in Australia. The climate, the opportunities...


...the Redbacks! 
AAARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wild Freesias

I'm loving the smell of wild freesias growing alongside the roads where I live. They bring me back to being a teenager and walking down Henry street and Moore street where the women of inner city Dublin would shout out their wares from displays precariously balanced on milk crates and old fashioned baby prams with big wheels. "Bananas 5 fer a powund" "Come an get yer apples" "Wrappin paper 5 fer 50" Your ears would be assaulted by each woman calling louder than the next.

Then there were the flower stalls where you could buy simple small bunches of flowers for a few pounds. Tulips, Carnations, Iris's and Freesias. My Mum loved the yellow ones. The small yellow freesias with a heady perfume. I sometimes bought her some, just because.

It's not so easy when you live across the seas. I could go on Interflora, get out my credit card and order a fancy bouquet of roses, liliies, have them delivered to her door. I'm sure she wouldn't complain but they wouldn't be the same. They would never beat the small bunch of stems wrapped in cellophane and with a bit of patterned paper scrunched around them, damp and dripping down my jeans all the way home on the bus.

Last week in a fit of sentimentality I went detouring on my way to drop the kids to tennis. Down a small side road where I had seen some fresh blooms in the steep banks lining the road. I jumped out of the car, engine running and grabbed a couple of stems before jumping back in. The sun was dipping in the sky and the last few rays were about to go below the horizon. I knew it would be dusk as we arrived at tennis. The light would be fading and I realised I wouldn't be able to get a good photo of the flowers to send Mum. I pulled the car in again . Jumped out with freesias in one hand and mobile in the other. I held the flowers high into the last ray of sunshine and took a photo on my phone as cars whizzed past. The kids were dying of mortification in the car. "Mum, What are you DOING?" "Everyone will see"

But it was worth it. The photo was bright and vibrant and I got to email it my mum that night with a message telling her to pretend they were from Henry Street. It didn't cost a fortune. She can look at them again in coming days and they won't wilt and fade. I get the sweet smell of them every time I walk past the little vase in the kitchen and they bring me home. Back to the streets of Dublin...

"...Get your Freesias, any colour now, only a fiver love"